First man in space or moon landings?

Whenever people talk about mankind’s great achievements, they always harp on about the moon landings but hardly ever mention the Russians first getting man off the earth and into space. This may well be because the American’s made the moon landings into a public event, whereas the Russians were less concerned with publicity. I’ve always thought that Yuri Gagarin’s trip was far more important than Neil Armstrong’s. Especially since it paved the way for the moon landings. Don’t get me wrong - a man on the moon was a phenominal moment, but getting a man into space for the first time represented, for me, an enormous moment in the evolution of man. With this argument however we could also say that Laika - the first living animal in space - was just as big a step. What do other Dopers think is the greater moment for mankind - man on the moon or man in space?

Man on the moon. Much more complex, engineering and science wise to get men there safely and back, to another world, dammit, then sitting a guy on top of a pile of explosives, and blowing him up so high, that the world has completely turned under him a few times before he falls back down.

Oversimplifying a lot, I know, but that’s essentially what they did

Apollo 11.
Did Ed White leaving the atmosphere in the X-15 predate Gregarin?

Nonsense. The Russians were highly concerned with publicity. It’s just that they were absolutely terrified of negative publicity. It was safer for all concerned in their system to announce a success well after the fact than to announce in advance and then fail.

Besides, who cares about the Russians? America’s where the action’s at, baby! :smiley:

What about Sputnik?
That frightened a lot of people, given that the USSR had nukes. Cameras would be bad enough in such an infernal device.

I agree with the first half of this, strongly disagree with the second half.

Apollo 11: vastly more impressive a feat than Gagarin’s flight.

But Gagarin’s flight was no cakewalk. Nobody’d ever ridden a rocket before. And he orbits “a few times before he falls back down?” He did one orbit but could’ve done many more. How many dozens or hundreds of orbits before his orbit decays? Does he run out of oxygen by then? Very probably. And random landing is, for Soviet craft, an extremely dangerous proposition. Soviet spacecraft weren’t designed for water landings. If he comes down over water–a strong likelihood–Bob Ballard (finder of the Titanic) is looking for Yuri and his craft thirty years later.
As far as pure daring and faith in technology, I’d put Apollo 8 up there, too. It was the first time humans had left the relative security of Earth orbit. This feat was also the best the Russians had on the board, and they were planning to steal a significant portion of American thunder by first reaching–if not orbiting–the Moon. Circumlunar flight is a hell of an astronautic and technological feat, not just a publicity stunt. The fact that the Russians withdrew from shooting for the Moon after Apollo 8 indicates just how little esteem the Soviets did have for publicity. Ummm, yeah.

Dummy me.

That should read, "by first reaching–if not landing on–the Moon.

The Reason the Ruskies eschewed water landings is that they had a very large land target to land in that belonged to them. The first guys just bailed out and didn’t ride the capsule down. The first woman Cosmonaunt was chosen because she was a parachutist. A couple of helicopters to find them instead of an aircraft carrier group.

Didn’t their Moon rocket blow up on the pad?


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Since the Sixties, he’s been digging into the truths behind the secrecy of the Soviet space program.

I rented HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon DVD set this week and I’ve re-watched most of it.

I was born in 1973, so I missed all of the wonder of Apollo 11. I’m absolutely flabbergasted that the USA (well, homo sapiens) was able to build and navigate a service module, command module, and lunar module that would fly to the moon, and then separate into two parts, with one part remaining in lunar orbit, and the other landing and then returning to the command module. Wow.

Man on the Moon. As already hinted at, the X-15 program was reaching the edge of space. The craft did not have the protective shielding necessary for re-entry; the heat it did generate being handled by new alloys. These alloys would not have withstood an actual re-entry though. Nevertheless, leaving the atmosphere was just a matter of time. Flight test involves incremental steps, each building on the last. Had we not been in such a hurry to orbit a man, it would have been done eventually by a craft that could be flown to orbit and then safely flown back. Much like the Space Shuttle, except the launch would have been different. So putting a man in orbit was inevitable. Reaching the moon was not. To put it in perspective, powered flight was less than 60 years old when Yuri Gagarin left the atmosphere. Manned space flight was less than a decade old when the U.S. landed on the Moon. To go so far in so short a time is remarkable, and therefore gets my vote as the greater achievement.

While technically in the atmosphere, X-15 had chemical thrusters to manuver in a vacumn. There was not enough atmosphere for normal control surfaces to be effective.

True. My meaning was that the X-15 was bringing us close to a spacecraft that could be flown down from orbit. The Dynasoar program was to fly such a craft, but it was cancelled because the money was needed for Apollo.